And everyone agrees on this. But all seem helpless to stop ourselves.
Because, after all, the American Economy depends on it. Someone pointed out to me that if no one bought Christmas presents it would collapse our economy in a way foreign enemies could only envy. So we line up at the stores and throw down our money while secretly feeling both self-satisfied and patriotic.
I don't think this is what God intends for us. Not at all.
In my own attempt at a small course-correction in the face of this tsunami I have a favorite video I like to watch at Thanksgiving. I first watched it when the grands were little and it has become a personal tradition. Sunday I shared it with my church.
Veggie Tales does children’s videos on values. Sometimes they base it on a bible story (Jonah, Esther, David) and sometimes just on a concept. They never actually say that Madame Blueberry is based on Exodus 16 but I found a connection.
In the video they tell us that Madame Blueberry was a very blue berry. She was sad because all of her friends had things she wanted. Nicer plates, cups that weren’t chipped, appliances that were newer than hers. She wanted more stuff. So she went out to buy more stuff. On the way she met a little girl whose family could only afford one piece of apple pie for her birthday and a little boy whose father could only afford a ball to give him. But the little girl was happy for the piece of apple pie and the little boy was happy for his trip to the mall. They were very happy for very little.
Once Madame Blueberry gets all her stuff she finds out it’s too much. It weighs down her house and eventually destroys it. The video ends with a memorable tune that I loved so much that it became our family’s mealtime blessing for a year or two.
I love my annual visit with Madame Blueberry so much I suggested it to our pastor as an intergenerational Sunday School class . Then, because it was church, after all, we paired it with a short skit based on Exodus 16. I shouldn’t even call it a skit. All we did was take the scripture and divide it into parts. I didn’t have to change a word.
We had the lion of the church, the wisest and most respected guy with a deep and sonorous voice play God. Our pastor played Moses. The youth played the Grumbling Israelites and the Narrator. And the star of the show was the kid who waved a sign every time the bible used the word “Enough” or “Need.”
The moral of both the video and the scripture was that God provides us with what we need. No more and no less. Enough.
At my age I am still discovering new things in the bible. What I learned this year was the trick God did with their propensity to stock up on food out of fear that there might not be enough. And their stockpile got a good case of maggots. Just like Madame Blueberry’s excess destroyed her house.
When will we learn?
About 13 years ago Beaven and I built our dream house. We designed it to have everything we wanted, everything we thought we needed. But on our first evening in the new house I realized it was too big. It was drafty and cold and the electric bill ate our lunch. We lasted a little over two years then moved out to a small cabin in the country. Even now two of the three small bedrooms are fairly unnecessary except for when our kids come for the weekend.
In a stroke of genius we instead bought a storage building that’s bigger than the house we live in. I still get to keep the Stuart family bible that dates back to 1885 and my grandmother's china but it’s not in my way. We get to keep our stuff but we don’t have to live with it. We don’t have to air-condition or heat it.
No, I don’t need my grandmother’s china anymore. But I can’t bear to part with it. That will be a decision for my girls to make. Let it be on their conscience.
My friends Scott and Gabby Dannemiller have lived an interesting year. They claimed 2013 as The Year Without A Purchase. Scott has provided a commentary on their experiment and I recommend its reading to everyone. Especially the post where his suitcase broke and he thought he needed a new one. This was important because he travels for a living. But Gabby pointed out she had one he could use. So he has spent the rest of the year traveling with a pink suitcase. theaccidentalmissionary.wordpress.com/
Here’s wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving. May it have a deeper, truer meaning than usual this year.